Friday 24 July 2009

Smeared by Freer

Last week, Mike Freer gave a statement to the press claiming that the cost of the Auditor’s investigation into the council’s purchase of audio visual equipment and television sets for chief officers was £9,000.

Don’t Call Me Dave subsequently e-mailed the Auditor to ask for confirmation of this figure. He replied:
“The cost of this has yet to be finalised and agreed.”

So there we have it. Mike Freer gives a statement to the press without any basis of fact, simply to discredit a member of the public who had the temerity to question why council chiefs needed expensive flat screen televisions.

The cost of this investigation might ultimately cost more than £9,000. Equally, it might cost a lot less. The truth is we simply don’t yet know. But Mike Freer is not one to let facts get in the way of a good smear.

The indisputable fact is that if the council has answered a very simply question a year ago as to who authorised the purchase of these televisions, there would have been no need for any formal complaint.

The Auditor’s investigation actually revealed a number of significant failings in the council’s processes and he has made four recommendations to improve the accountability of officers acting under delegated powers and to protect taxpayers' money.

Don’t Call Me Dave detests waste, but if the council implements the Auditor’s recommendations in full, then the cost of the inquiry will prove to be entirely worthwhile.

In making his comments to the press, Cllr Freer strangely omitted to mention that the Auditor had stated in his report:
“As for any breakdown of the actual expenditure was concerned, this does not appear to have been reported back against the overall budget. We should add that we do not believe that members requested more detailed reporting from officers, who used their delegated powers to make the spending decisions.”
In short, councillors approved a total budget but paid no attention as to how the money was actually spent.

Don’t Call Me Dave asked the Auditor which council committee had approved the budget but then failed to monitor the expenditure? He replied that it was the Cabinet Resources Committee.

And who was the Chairman of the Cabinet Resources Committee when the TVs were purchased?

Er, that would be Mike Freer.


manswell said...

It is also pretty pathetic that the local press don't bother to check their facts.

The tendency at the Hendon Times and Barnet Press is to puclish quotes wholesale, rather tahn do any journalism.

Another example is their recent story about a man 'attacked for having the Union Jack painted on his van' - I noticed that the alleged victim was the BNP candidate at a by-eelction last year. Did the Times' rookie joutrnalist make the link? how embarrassing...

I think the public realise that you were 100% in the right, i just hope if Freer turns out to have got his facts badly wrong in his attack on you, that the Times and others have the guts and ability to write a real editorial exposing him for yet again smearing his constituents when they dare to criticise him.

Don't Call Me Dave said...


In fairness, the Barnet Times did ask me for a comment before they went to print and they allowed me a fair response. At the time, I had not received the e-mail from the Auditor regarding the fees.

You would not expect council leaders to pluck figures out of thin air, but perhaps everyone will treat Cllr Freer’s comments with justified scepticism in future.

Even if the figures were correct, Freer accused DCMD of being “vindictive” merely for complaining that the council was wasting public money on televisions for chief officers. Since when is highlighting waste and a lack of democratic accountability vindictive?